This has been something that I have struggled with in writing about gravestones. Even when the gravestone does offer a surname, I am hesitant to use it because it is often unclear whether the stone was erected by the deceased's family or by a slaveowner.
|Pegge [Scott-Robinson], NCBG, Newport, RI, 1757
By what name should I call the child in my own writing? Take the case of Pegge, a little girl who died in Newport, RI in 1757. If Pegge is the daughter of Pompe Scott and Vilot Robinson, should I call her Pegge Scott? Probably not, because that erases the reality of enslaved families' forced estrangement. Pegge Robinson? Maybe — she probably lived with her mother at the time of her death — but that name ignores her father, implying that her mother's owner was, in some way, her "father." Should I use a hyphen and call her Pegge Scott-Robinson or Pegge Robinson-Scott? That is a ridiculous anachronism that would make very little sense within the accepted naming patterns of 18th-century New England.
|Peg, 1740, Newport Common Burying Ground, Newport, RI